OCEAN CITY — Although town officials weren’t exactly surprised by the news that the state had decided to cut its tourism advertising budget once again, it certainly doesn’t mean that they are supportive of the decision.
It was reported by Greg Shockley, the newly appointed chairman of the state’s developmental tourism board, that the state had cut the tourism advertising budget for all of Maryland once again to roughly $2.9 million, which is now lower than what the town spends (roughly $3.7 million) alone.
“It’s a concern but it’s not unexpected,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “It’s sometimes hard to convince people in Annapolis the value of financially supporting expenditures that produce revenue. In my mind, you should cut costs, but you should never cut costs on things that actually create a substantial amount of revenue for the state.”
The state’s advertising budget in regards to tourism has dropped from almost $7 million in 2007 to below the $3 million mark today.
“We put ourselves in a good position last year by increasing our own advertising spending and we all saw how much that helped us last summer,” said Meehan. “We are going to move forward as we did last year, and do the best with what we have, and hope the state follows suit.”
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones disagrees with the state’s decision for a number of reasons, most notably concurring with Meehan’s claim that increased advertising spending helped save the town’s summer.
“I think that it’s short sighted because it’s a proven driver of revenue and provides a 30 to 1 return on the state’s general fund investment,” said Jones. “Dollars from visitor spending come to the state within four months after responding to market messages. Those dollars translate into state tax revenue, and the state receives a benefit of (out-of-state) visitor spending without having to use those tax dollars on the needs of visitors they will get in their home states.”
Based on the tax codes cited in the Tourism Promotion Act of 2009, tourism generated $291 million for the state, and when compared to the $9.7 million in general funds that the Maryland Office of Tourism and the Maryland Tourism Development Board put in, Jones says the ratio of money spent versus money brought in is staggering.
“Two billion dollars in state and local taxes is generated by the 28 million visitors to Maryland who spent $14.5 billion at the state’s restaurant, accommodations, retail establishments and accommodations,” said Jones. “The O’Malley’s administration believes in the development and expansion of small businesses, but our industry is almost entirely comprised of small businesses. Ninety-six percent of Maryland’s tourism businesses are small businesses.”
Tourism is the fourth largest industry in the state of Maryland, employing 146,000 citizens who earn more than $4 billion in wages, which is largely funneled back into the state’s economy.
Either way, the decision has been made and Ocean City, as opposed to other municipalities across the state, seem to be in a much better position, as it now spends more money per year, to advertise its 10 miles of beach, as the state does to advertise all of the attractions in the state of Maryland.
“Tourism will never fail if it’s given proper funding for marketing messages to reach these urban areas,” said Jones.